Lockdown in India has not been an easy experience

Power cuts, shortage of food items and staying indoors for weeks, the lockdown has not been an easy experience for most of us here in India including myself.

Just like most international students, I preferred being locked down with my family in my home country rather than all alone in my tiny studio apartment.

The decision to leave UK was a very difficult one and had to be made quickly due to the upcoming travel ban and so I arrived in Mumbai on March 19 from Nottingham without a return ticket.

At that time, I was hoping to stay here for a quick “mid-year vacation” but little did I know that lockdown was going to be indefinite and only worsen with time.

Upon my arrival in Mumbai, I was asked to home quarantine for 14 days.

I was stamped at the airport

Lockdown in India has been divided into phases with the first phase beginning three days after I arrived on March 22 and it lasted for three weeks.

By the end of the first phase, it was apparent that there is no going back to things being normal anytime soon and so when the second phase was announced by the Indian government it was not surprising.

The second phase was when things started to worsen with not only the Covid-19 cases were rising but there was also a shortage of food and essential items.

The local grocery stores had started to hike their prices with one bottle of sanitizer being sold for Rs. 700 (approximately £7).

With the third phase, the Indian government decided to relax the restrictions by non-essential shops including liquor stores to open from May 3.

That did not go well as commotion erupted outside many liquor stores across the country as scores of people thronged to buy liquor after over a month.

Officials had painstakingly drawn chalk circles for buyers of booze to stand in but the social distancing efforts were thwarted as people gathered from early morning all over the country.

Many videos from all over the country went viral and the government’s decision to open liquor stores was heavily criticized.

Soon after realizing their mistake, the government revoked its order to open any non-essential shops on May 6.

As lockdown rules are being eased in the UK, we see stricter guidelines being introduced in India.

I have been in Mumbai for two months now, working remotely for CBJStar and thanks to modern technology I have been updated on things that have been going on in Nottingham and UK.

While UK has allowed the public to meet friends and family close by, the Indian government has asked the public to adhere to the strict social distancing guidelines.

Mumbai airport where people failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines

The total number of cases in my state – Maharashtra is now at 35,058, including 25,392 active cases and 1,249 deaths.

With the fourth phase of lockdown that started on May 19, India has crossed the 100,000 mark and the death toll in the country has also surpassed 3,000.

There are absolutely no relaxations in the guidelines for Mumbai as it comes under the “red-zone” making the financial capital the worst affected city in the country.

Only grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to operate with only two people entering at once but only after they have got their temperature checked.

Seeing the situation become worse every single day here I can not help but think would I have been better off staying in the UK where I could atleast go out for a run without the fear of being charged with breaking the law.

The only thing that keeps me going is that I am safe and fortunate enough to be with my family during this crisis whereas not everyone is that lucky.

Bipasha Desai, 21, was stranded alone at her friend’s house in Mumbai while her family was in Surat, a city almost 300kms away in the state of Gujarat.

Bipasha Desai

As inter-state traveling is banned her family tried to contact everyone they could to let her come back home.

Finally, after almost two and a half months of trying she was given permission to travel to Surat on May 18.

A journey which is normally three hours long took her nine hours on the train.

Bipasha said: “It was the worst experience ever in the coach with so many people.

“Everyone with me looked sad and disturbed and it was so upsetting to see so many of these people were not even wearing masks or gloves and I just prayed to God that I get out of here safe.

The railway station in Mumbai where Bipasha caught her train to Surat

“I never thought I would go through something like this but once I saw my family, it was all worth it.”

After talking to Bipasha, I still have hope that I can make it back to Nottingham before I graduate to say goodbye to all the amazing people I met and the friends I made over the past year.